Fed Cup: Indians prepare in earnest for Asia-Oceania Group-1 challenge

The Indian team is trying to get used to the cold conditions in Kazakhstan, as it gears up to face Thailand and the host in March.

The Indian team in Astana, Kazakhstan. From left: From left: Ankita Raina, Riya Bhatia, Mahak Jain, Ankita Bhambri (coach), Vishaal Uppal (captain, Karman Thandi, Prarthana Thombare, Anand Dubey (physio). Photo: Special Arrangement

India’s Fed Cup team gained a much-needed impetus for its Asia-Oceania Group-1 tennis challenge by visiting the home of the Indian ambassador to Kazakhstan, in Astana. The assignment — matches against Thailand and Kazakhstan — are scheduled for March 7 and March 8.

Ambassador Prabhat Kumar’s warmth and hospitality provided comfort for the Indian team trying to cope with cold conditions. Vishaal Uppal, the captain of the Indian team, said, “The Ambassador and his wife were extremely nice and friendly. Everyone had a nice evening. The vegetarians in the team were most happy to eat some Indian food.”

Will the warmth and hospitality also extend in the form of Indian support for the team during its matches? “There are only about 100 Indians in Astana. The Indian High Commission will highlight the information in their communication with fellow Indians. The Ambassador and his wife will come on Saturday to watch the matches,” Vishaal said.

‘Good’ preparations

Ankita Bhambri, the coach of the team, said, “The preparation has been good. We reached early and that gave us more time to get used to the courts and the place. Each court is slightly different. All the five players have been adjusting to the pace and bounce. We have been playing a lot of singles and doubles. So, the girls are sharp.”

Prabhat Kumar, the Indian ambassador to Kazakhstan, and his wife with the Indian team. Photo: Special Arrangement.

 

Most of the Indian players are not used to competing on indoor hard courts; adequate practice helped them feel at home. “The venue is about seven minutes drive from the hotel. The courts are low bouncing and a little quick. We got practice on the match courts also. Every day, we have been playing for about four hours in two sessions. Then, the girls do their rehab. The girls are training very sincerely and I am happy with their progress,” Vishaal informed.

‘Good and intense’ practice

The 168th-ranked Ankita Raina, who had beaten Yulia Putintseva, the leading Kazakh, in a contest last year in Delhi, expressed confidence ahead of her upcoming challenge. “The practice has been good and intense,” Raina said.

Read | TOPS should support men's singles players, says Mahesh Bhupathi

Figuring in the three-team group, India will watch the host take on Thailand on Wednesday. The other group has four teams — China, South Korea, Indonesia and Pacific Oceania. After the league phase, the fourth-placed team from that group will be relegated to Group-2. The third-placed teams in the two groups will play each other to decide the second team to be relegated.

The toppers of the two groups will play each other to determine the team qualifying for the World Group-2 playoff.